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Sodium Aluminum Phosphate:

A Food Additive that may add to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Margaret Gaby

April 3, 2010



Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, a food additive often found in products such as processed cheese, instant pancake mixes, and frozen breakfast items may be linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.  Daily, people around the world, especially in the United States, purchase these products, blind to the possible side effects caused by this preservative.  In the past twenty years, several studies have been performed to explore the possibility of such consequences. 


Last year, my grandmother was diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  As a young adult, my grandmother, unaware of the consequence, consumed an elevated level of aluminum primarily because of her family’s reliance on the use of aluminum-containing bread leavening agents.  Her doctor alluded to the possible connection between the two, sparking my interest in the subject.  Immediately upon searching aluminum consumption, I was redirected to websites containing warnings to increased risks of Alzheimer’s disease and toxicity.  There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, primarily because doctors’ still do not know the true origin of this disease. 


Sodium aluminum phosphate is one of the most common food additives and is found in several products consumed by people of all ages.  Most people are not educated on the risk of this toxic drug.  But, as science progresses, increasing numbers of studies suggest the toxicity of this drug can ultimately lead to Alzheimer’s disease.  The abuse of Sodium Aluminum Phosphate in our diet may contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. 



There is common belief that aluminum has some connection with dementia.  Aluminum is present in thousands of products, yet the specific consequences of the consumption of this drug are not entirely understood.  The FDA does not test the safety of aluminum consumption and has “classified this substance as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).”  Consequently, little information regarding the recommended consumption or avoidance of aluminum has been made available.  (Applied Ozone Systems)


Sodium Aluminum Phosphate is a chemical leaving agent.  Chemical leavening agents are chemical mixtures or compounds that release gases when they react with moisture and heat, leaving behind a chemical salt residue (Wikipedia).  According to the 2008 Material Safety Data Sheet provided by, exposure to sodium aluminum phosphate might lead to temporary or minor injury, but the potential chronic health effects (ie. Carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic effects and developmental toxicity) are not yet available.  Clearly from this safety sheet, exposure to this chemical is quite harmful and would require serious medical attention if ingestion or contact occurs.


Sodium aluminum phosphate is found in thousands of food products.  Pasteurized processed cheeses, McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets, Hotcakes, and Buttermilk Biscuits, Burger King’s French Fries and Biscuits, several Eggo Waffles products, Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, DiGiorno’s frozen pizzas, Bisquick Pancake mix, Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and several other American specialties all contain sodium aluminum phosphate as a food additive/preservative.  However, these products continue to be sold in the grocery store around the world.  Most families are not aware of the potential risk this additive causes until it is too late.  (


According to Henderson’s Dictionary of Biology, dementia is a chronic disorder in mental processes as a result of brain disease and includes symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and personality changes.   Alzheimer’s disease, one example of dementia, affects more than 5.3 million Americans in the world today.  It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.  It is a “progressive and fatal brain disease”, the “most common form of dementia”, and “has no current cure.”  This disease destroys brain cells, resulting in memory loss and difficultly with brain processing.  Although there is no found cure, treatments have been issued to help patients deal with this disease.  Treatments include drug and nondrug approaches as well as lifestyle changes that may help patients fight this disease.  There are two classifications of Alzheimer’s disease—early-stage and younger-onset.  Early-stage is classified as memory, thinking and concentration degradation appearing during diagnosis; however, the patient has not necessarily been diagnosed with this disease based on these symptoms but may develop the disease as the brain deteriorates.  Patients with younger-onset Alzheimer’s are under the age of 65 and the disease may interfere with family or employment.  The most common form of Alzheimer’s is early-stage, sometimes referred to late-onset depending on the level of deterioration in the brain.  (Alzheimer’s Association, 2010)


Studies have found that damage to the brain can begin as early as ten to twenty years before any symptoms of this disease become apparent.  Abnormal clumping, called tangles and plaques, develop in the brain inhibiting brain efficiency by damaging neurons.  Ultimately so many neurons terminate that brain and tissue damage is irreversible.  It has not been identified as to what causes this disease, but several medical professionals speculate that genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors contribute to the progression of this disease.  (National Institute of Health, 2008)



Several studies have been performed to determine the relative risk of Alzheimer’s disease due to the consumption of sodium aluminum phosphate.  Aluminum is absorbed and may accumulate in different organs in both adults and infants (Meiri H, Banin E, Roll M., 1991).  This conclusion was drawn based on the ingestion of aluminum and calculated exposure to Alzheimer’s disease.  Another study suggests aluminum does influence the risk of exposure to Alzheimer’s based on data collected from the levels of aluminum in drinking water than food.  However, other factors including those materials also present in drinking water may be influencing the found data. (Frisardi V et al, 2010)



In a review study performed at Hebrew University, researchers tested patients suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for elevated levels of aluminum in brain tissue hoping to understand the connection between aluminum and this disease.  This review focused on the oral ingestion of aluminum and possible side effects in the brain.  The study analyzed absorption of aluminum, effects of diets rich in aluminum on behavior and brain function, and the consequences of dietary sources of aluminum, which includes vitamins and supplements.  Two groups were analyzed and compared: people with chronic renal failure and pre-term infants, both fed with aluminum containing diets.  (Meiri H, Banin E, Roll M., 1991)



Although this study was not able to conclude that toxic accumulation of aluminum will lead to dementia, researches did provide support that excessive exposure to aluminum may contribute to the degradation of the brain because the body may not be able to metabolize toxic levels of this drug.  It was determined that aluminum is absorbed and can accumulate all over the body.  (Meiri H, Banin E, Roll M., 1991)



In a review study performed at the Center for Again Brain unit at the University of Bari, Italy, researchers suggest that aluminum may in fact contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  It is noted that aluminum absorption is primarily supplemented by consumption of food and drinking water.  Testing of the levels of aluminum present in the body after patients were treated with food and water containing a marked level of aluminum were analyzed.  These patients had all been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, determining the level of aluminum toxicity in the body provided potential support for this study. 



This study suggests that drinking water impacts the levels of aluminum in the body most significantly.  However, the study concludes that there is still not enough significant data to prove this connection and further studies should be performed to determine the risks.  This study does suggest that “new routes to disease-modifying treatment of Alzheimer’s disease or possibly some lifestyle modification” would be beneficial to future studies. (Frisardi V et al, 2010)



Some studies suggest other possible side effects of aluminum absorption.  These include ovarian lesions, decreased fertility, increased risk to babies, elderly and people suffering from kidney and heart complaints, impairment of calcium and phosphorous assimilation, and is linked to other diseases such as osteoporosis and Parkinson’s. 



Sodium aluminum phosphate was included in an aluminum toxicological monograph published in 1977 because it was not evaluated by the FAO/WHO.  In this study, scientists examined the side effects of aluminum found in food additives like sodium aluminum phosphate.  Three studies were performed—one examined the effects of this substance on mice, focusing on birth defects and reproduction; the second examined short-term toxicological effects in mice; the last examined the effect on man.  All three studies were randomized controlled clinical trials because they involved the study of specific drugs and the effect on the patient.  The first study examined 40 mice, having been fed bread containing yeast, aluminum phosphate, or aluminum to determine if these substances affect fertility (Schaeffer et al., 1928). The next set of experiments focused on short-term effects.  A second group of 40 mice were fed bread leavened with aluminum (Schaeffer et al., 1928).  In the study focusing on the effect on humans, researchers looked at the absorption of aluminum phosphate in the blood (Underhill et al., 1929).  Each of these studies contained a control group to provide comparison.


These studies provided evidence that sodium aluminum phosphate can have lasting effects on the body.  In the first trial, mice that had been treated with aluminum had decreased fertility, and ovarian lesions were noted in these animals.  In the second study, digestive tract lesions were recorded in the mice after having been fed aluminum phosphate for 4 months.  In men, research showed that diets containing aluminum phosphate did increase these levels in the blood.  It was also noted that aluminum might inhibit intestinal absorption (Spencer & Lender, 1979).



This study examined the broad effects of aluminum absorption in mice and men.  It was noted that “only minor amounts of orally administered aluminum salts [were] absorbed.”  These studies, although not recent, provide some evidence that sodium aluminum phosphate can impact other part of our bodies, leaving lasting effects that could eventually lead to much worse complications. 


In an Australian study on food additives, the following data was collected concerning sodium aluminum phosphate:  “Acidity regulator, emulsifier used in baked goods, cheese products, confectionary, mince meat, frozen fish, stews…A risk to babies, elderly and people suffering from kidney and heart complaints…Aluminum impairs the calcium and phosphorous uptake by the body…Possible link to osteoporosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Avoid it…”.  It appears that this substance is becoming increasingly better known to cause lasting side effects on the body.  The Australian MBM Corporation performed this analysis, and its purpose is to provide the public with a basic guide to food additives.  Based on the findings, it is recommended that people avoid sodium aluminum phosphate in their diets due to range of harm caused by this drug. 



Several studies have been performed to evaluate possible solutions to reverse the side effects of aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease.  J. Savory et al. performed a review study to discuss the role of aluminum associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.



John Savory, professor in the Departments of Pathology and Biochemistry at the University of Virginia, and his team of extremely qualified professionals performed a review study to discuss the relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.  This study first analyzes the presence of aluminum in Alzheimer’s affected areas of the brain based on the studies of Lovell et al. (1996), which measured the levels of aluminum in the brain of Alzheimer patients.  Good et al. (1993) performed a study that demonstrated the elevated presence of aluminum in patients with Alzheimer’s disease using laser microprobe mass analysis (LMMS), a procedure that measures the presence of aluminum in neurofibrillary tangles.  This study also evaluated whether the consumption of drinking water containing aluminum could be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.  Martyn et al (1989) is the most widely publicized investigation of this proposition.  This study suggested, based on the data collected, that in places where the drinking water contained an increased level of aluminum concentration, there was an increase in the risk and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.  This conclusion was drawn based on comparison with places with lower levels of aluminum in the drinking water. 


There are basic questions that this study hoped to resolve as presented in the abstract of this paper.  Using LMMS, this study hoped to measure the concentration of aluminum in the brain comparing it with the levels in patients with Alzheimer’s.  This study also examined the influence of aluminum in drinking water on the onset of Alzheimer’s.  Based on the data analyzed by these trials and others concerning the approaches of analysis, conclusions were drawn.  Savory et al. conclude that there are “strong indications that Aluminum might be one of the several factors resulting in Alzheimer’s disease and perhaps other neurodegenerative disorders.”



Based on the studies performed and analyzed, it appears that sodium aluminum phosphate does increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Upon further analysis of the side effects of this additive, aluminum has been shown to influence other functions of the body including reproduction.  Although it is not yet proven that sodium aluminum phosphate directly influences the onset of this disease, it does appear to have some influence.  There are several other factors involved in the development of this disease, including environmental, genetic, and social influences.  It is apparent that elderly who have consumed more than the recommended allowance of this additive have been more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.  To lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, avoid food products containing increased concentrations of aluminum, especially in the form of sodium aluminum phosphate.  Also avoid nutritional supplements containing aluminum exceeding the daily-recommended allowance.  To determine whether products contain this substance, simply look at the nutritional label.  If sodium aluminum phosphate is present, it will be located in the ingredients.  Avoiding foods and products containing sodium aluminum phosphate can be easily done.  Choosing foods without sodium aluminum phosphate can greatly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Examine the ingredients of processed foods to see if sodium aluminum phosphate is present.  However, an even better method would be to avoid processed foods all together.  Choosing organic, fresh, homemade foods can guarantee the elimination of sodium aluminum phosphate from one’s diet.  In the past 10 years, our society has increasingly begun to stress the healthful benefits of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy choices of meats.  The Taub Institute performed a recent study for Research in Alzheimer’s disease and the Aging Brain and the Department of Medicine at Columbia University to investigate the potential risk-lowering effects of a Mediterranean diet on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  (Nikolaos Scarmeas et al., 2006).



This was a prospective cohort case study involving the evaluation of 2,258 “community-based nondemented individuals in New York.”  The patients were evaluated every 1.5 years for 4 years.  These patients strictly followed a Mediterranean diet which consists of the consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals, high intake of unsaturated fatty acids while keeping consumption of unsaturated fatty acids at a very low level, an elevated consumption of fish, low intake of dairy, meat, and poultry, and a moderate consumption of alcohol primarily as wine.  Conclusions were drawn from the study based on the findings that a Mediterranean Diet is associated with a lowered risk of the development of Alzheimer’s disease. (Nikolaos Scarmeas et al., 2006).



This study provides an adequate evaluation of a possible diet that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Although this diet may account in some part to the lowered risk of Alzheimer’s, it is not the only contributing factor and several other factors must be included in the analysis of this study.  This study was a cohort study and therefore is not as significant because the study is not on a random group.  This diet in combination with other factors, which might include genetics, social interaction, and overall health, play an influential role in the development of Alzheimer’s.  However, this study does provide evidence that a diet similar to a Mediterranean diet does in fact lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (Nikolaos Scarmeas et al., 2006).

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There are several factors that contribute to degradation of the brain and development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Aluminum, especially present in the food additive sodium aluminum phosphate, has been the topic of several studies to determine the connection between this substance and the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.  Evidence suggests that an elevated consumption of aluminum in the diet is toxic and does increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Diet and avoidance of excess consumption of sodium aluminum phosphate can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.  There is still research to be done to determine the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but based on the analysis and review of these studies, it appears that the consumption of sodium aluminum phosphate should be avoided if possible. 


1.  Alzheimer’s Association.  What is Alzheimer’s.  (2005)

2.  Applied Ozone Systems.  Alzheimer's Dementia Aluminum Toxicity (1993).

3.  Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) monographs. International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS), World Health Organization,

4.  Food Additives Guide, MBM, Australia, January 2010.  Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, 541 E541.

Frisardi V, Solfrizzi V, Capurso C, Kehoe PG, Imbimbo BP, Santamato A, Dellegrazie F, Seripa D, Pilotto A, Capurso A, Panza F.  (2010). Aluminum in the Diet and Alzheimer's Disease: From Current Epidemiology to Possible Disease-Modifying Treatment.  Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD), Epub,

5.  Good, P. F., and Perl, D. P. (1993). Laser microprobe mass analysis in Alzheimer’s disease. Ann. Neurol. 34.  Page 413.

6.  Good, P. F., Perl, D. P., Bierer, L. M., and Schmeidler, J. (1992). Selective accumulation of aluminum and iron in the neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s disease: A laser microprobe (LAMMA) study. Ann. Neurol. 31. Pages 286–292.

7.  Leavening Agent, Wikipedia.

8.  Lovell, M. A., Ehmann, W. D., and Markesbery, W. R. (1993a). Laser microprobe analysis of brain aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease. Ann. Neurol. 33.  Pages 36–42.

9.  Lovell, M. A., Ehmann, W. D., and Markesbery, W. R. (1993b). Laser microprobe mass analysis in Alzheimer’s disease; Reply. Ann. Neurol. 34.  Pages 413–415.

10.  Lovell, M. A., Ehmann, W. D., Markesbery, W. R., Melethil, S., Swyt, C. R., and Zatta, P. F. (1996). Aluminum Biological standards: What are the needs? Journal of Toxicology of Environmental Health 48.  Pages 637-648.

11.  Martyn, C. N., Barker, D. J. P., Osmond, C., Harris, E. C., Edwardson, J. A., and Lacey, R. F. (1989). Geographical relation between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum in drinking water. Lancet i.  Pages 59–62.

Meiri H, Banin E, Roll M. (1991). Aluminum ingestion--is it related to dementia?  Reviews on Environmental Health. Volume 9.  Number 4.  Pages 191-205.

12.  National Institutes of Health, Publication No. 08-6423November 2008 (reprinted February 2010).  Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet

13.  Savory J, Exley C, Forbes WF, Huang Y, Joshi JG, Kruck T, McLachlan DR, Wakayama I. (1996).  Can the controversy of the role of aluminum in Alzheimer's disease be resolved? What are the suggested approaches to this controversy and methodological issues to be considered?  Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Volume 48.  Number 6.  Pages 615-35.

14.  Schaeffer, G. et al. (1928) The dangers of certain mineral baking powders based on alum, when used for human nutrition, J. Hyg.,28, 92-99, Chemicals & Laboratory Equipment. Material Safety Data Sheet: Sodium Aluminum Phosphate (2008).

15.  Spencer, H. & Lender, M. (1979) Adverse effects of aluminum-containing antacids on mineral metabolism, Gastroenterology, 76, 603-606

16.  Underhill, F. P., Peterman, F. I. & Sperandeo (1929) Studies on the metabolism of aluminum. VII. A note on the toxic effects produced by subcutaneous injection of aluminum salts, Am. J. Physiol.,90, 76






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